Thursday, 29 September 2011


ActivInspire has been installed on ALL Primary School college PCs and Macs so you can confidently prepare and use flipcharts safe in the knowledge that your students can open files that they or you have created and open and edit them anywhere.

If they want to work on them at home, that's an option as well, as the ActivInspire is also a free download for Mac, albeit without the resources.

Any flipchart can be saved as a PDF when finished, or of course printed the old fashioned way.

I've also included a PDF file that shows what resources you should have installed on ActivInspire on your Mac, there are loads, and if your list doesn't look like mine, let your friendly neighbourhood ICT Tech know and they can dump the lot on your Mac quite easily (no install needed).

Remember that ActivInspire is a LOT more than a tool for your IWB, it is actually a fantastic general purpose creation tool, drawing , painting, mind mapping, collating and presenting, image compilation, all without the stresses of needing an Internet connection, and a seamless link between modelling via the IWB, and individual work on laptops and PCs.

It it completely cross platform, so any files you create on your Mac, can be transferred to the shared drives and easily owned and edited by students with PCs.

Can't find it on your Mac? Just use spotlight (the magnifying glass at the top right corner) and search for 'Inspire' - I'd keep it in the Dock as well. (right click > options > keep in dock)

My favourite way to use ActivInspire is to either create or even better download/modify one (from Promethean Planet), kick the task off at the IWB with student input - save this 'starter' on a shared drive (Primary Pupil Resources) and let the students open it and save it as their own copy - they continue work on their own in their own space. The most I ever send creating my own flipcharts is about 15 mins max, and only if I can reuse it. The best ones are the simplest.

Finally - I would advise you to use the ActivPrimary interface, rather than the ActivInspire one, apart from the obvious fact that is designed for Primary students (Studio is aimed at 11+) the kids do prefer it. If they have to switch between interfaces it is very confusing for you and them. If you need to change the interface, here's how:

On the menu at the top go to View > Dashboard:


Click Configure, then tick the little yellow box. Quit the Application and Open it again - *Voilá* Primary.

If you would like Grade level help with this über tool, just check my Calendar, and let me know when you want me, or ask me during 'Team Team' (Grades 3-5).

Here's a handy guide to what the pretty little icons mean:

Does your Calender think you are in British Columbia?

Many of you have already started using Google calendars, and this year, sooner or later all of you will, more than likely be getting to grips with electronic calendars like Google Calendars. These are being used more and more frequently throughout the college as a better way of managing the mind boggling array of schedules we all juggle so we can meet each other.

Having and sharing calendars makes this far easier than the usual flurry of emails, reply alls, etcetera that usually ensues when attempting to 'find a time' that works for a group.
Usually when you check your mail overseas you will get a prompt from Google asking if you want to change your settings to match your locality, I would click yes. Just remember not to ignore it when it asks you the same question on your return... (which it should). Otherwise...

You will discover that you have stumbled on a common glitch, date settings. For some reason many of your Google accounts are under the impression that you are in Ireland/Iran/Azerbaijan etc. This is probably the price you pay for checking your emails while on holiday.

Here's is how to check and if necessary adjust your date settings:

  1. Open Google Calendar (this is important - opening settings in Mail will only allow you to change Mail settings)
  2. At the top right, click on Settings > Calendar Settings
  3. You should see something like this...

    Screen shot 2011-08-13 at 11.24.06.png
  4. If you copy my settings above you should be fine.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Distributing Picture Resources in Class

Ever have one of those days/weeks/months when you just didn't have time to upload your resources to dropbox, StudyWiz eLocker or just worried that students won't download the resources before class?

Fret not. Help is here.

iPhoto has the ability to allow you (and/or your students) to share your various albums with each other via a network.

What this means is that your laptops can now serve as a photo hub resource.

Before we go on, I should mention that you might want to create a separate user or iphoto library for your personal pictures. You can follow these steps to set that up.

Checklist of things you need before we share photos:
  1. A network (wireless or otherwise)
  2. Specific iPhoto Albums that you would like to share with your class (try to avoid one general album for students to sort through)
Now here's what we do:

Step 1: Launch iPhoto (If you haven't already)
Step 2: In the menu bar, select, iPhoto - Preferences
Step 3: Select Sharing

Step 4: Select the option: Look for shared photos (students have to do this too).
Step 5: Choose the Albums that you wish to share. See below for sample setup for Steps 4 and 5.
You can check on the Require password box if you would like to make sure that only your students have access to your albums.

Easy isn't it?

Friday, 23 September 2011

Introductions to Blogging

A classroom blog can be an important part of your classroom practise and can be used in lots of different ways. Generally a blog is good if your are showing unique pieces of information over a period of time. The material can be sorted using tags, which highlight the key ideas in each post.

Blogs can be a weekly class summary completed by students, an immersion language site, a record of what is happening in class to communicate with parents, or a way to differentiate and extend more able students. 

Video Tutorials - Blogging at UWCSEA

Basic Text Instructions:
  1. Visit the website
  2. Sign in with your Google Apps username and password eg.
  3. Create your private blogger profile, which describes who you are, perhaps Mr Smith.
  4. Then click to create a new blog
  5. Choose the name of your blog and you can choose the a unique URL address.
  6. Then choose the theme. This can be changed later.
  7. Once this is complete you can write your first post, by clicking on the pencil button Think about adding pictures, videos and add a label to categorise your post.
  8. Then go click on the B icon at top and click on settings, then permissions to invite people to your blog. Blogs can be very private, very public or shared with a few readers. 
  9. Remember to bookmark to quickly access your dashboard.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Diagnostic Assessment using Promethean Activotes

Early this term we did a small trial lesson with the Activotes. These are little voting devices that students can use to participate in assessments run though the teachers laptops and the Promethean Inspire software installed on the staff macbooks. Throughout the school there are several sets of these voting devices which you are able to borrow and use.

Alongside Christine Chaboyer from the Maths Department we used the devices as a start of topic diagnostic assessment tool with Grade 8 students. As Christine was a new teacher, who was taking over the this class she needed a fun tool to assess the students prior knowledge. She set up a simple flip-chart with 20 multi choice questions. These can either be typed on or copied and pasted into the flip-chart from existing resources. Her great teaching strategy was to create these questions with some common mistakes to act as trap multiple choice questions. These assessment can therefore become concrete evidence where the cognitive gaps in the students learning exists.

How do the Activotes work?

This is a nice tutorial developed by Gordon Hirons from the Maths Department - click here to download
  1. Create a flipchart, and chose to insert questions. One per chart.
  2. Once this is complete you need to choose the Tools menu and then Express Poll
  3. A floating icon will pop up, select the icon, then Assign Devices to Students
  4. You need to create a database of student names
  5. Once this is complete, you need to use the floating icon again to register devices
  6. Easiest way to register the devices is to give them out to the students and then choose the register with pin option. Students look at the projector and add the devices.
  7. You need to check within preferences that the devices are set to Activotes and not Active Expressions. This is an option under the Inspire menu and then Preferences. See below
  8. Once the devices are all registered you can click at top right to begin the assessment.
Some of the downsides are the on a screen everyone can see the students, who have yet to answer the question, therefore introducing an unintended element of peer pressure. (See 2nd picture below)

The Inspire program gave provided excellent feedback to both the students and the teacher. The class sees a simple bar chart after each question is complete and the teacher has private access to all of a particular students answers. Therefore the teacher can identify comprehension issues at a whole class level or for individual students. 

Language Tools - Spanish and Webswami

The Spanish Department is currently piloting a piece of online language software called Webswami. This is a language tool, which allows students to record their speaking, seamlessly alongside the teachers oral questions. We are working with Grade 9 and 11 students who now have personal laptops.

This is potentially an excellent tool to support students oral speaking skills, which are always assessed directly with the teacher as an impromptu dicussion. Replicating this learning, and scaffolding their language skills is hard for the teacher due to the time constraints of 1:1 conferencing, but Webswami provides an ideal platform for this to occur. Students can replay or re-record their voices, and then submit the final edit. The teacher can share comments back with the students. Alongside the oral functionality there is a host of other activities available on the WebSwami platform.

For more information contact Vicki Berman, HOD Spanish, UWCSEA Dover.


Monday, 19 September 2011

Sharing photos from iPhoto to a Picasa online gallery

Often there is a need to share a collection of photographs with students. The easiest way to do this is to use iPhoto and then export to a Picasa Gallery. You can upload images/photographs and even videos to Picasa, although your account will have a size limit of around 1GB.
  1. From within iPhoto you need to click on an event and then select export from the File Menu.
  2. Then choose to click on the Picasa Web Albums option
  3. Add your school email address and password
  4. Then you can fiddle and change some options to make the album public or private and add tags.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Digital Ideas to support the ESOL student

Many of our students come from different language backgrounds and as teachers we are constantly finding ways to support them. Many of us have completed the English in the Mainstream Classes which focused on pedagogy and have lots of practical skills. The digital tools which are also available offer students more support and can help them learn more effectively in classes. This post will cover a series of basic tools that can be used with all students but especially those who are developing their English skills.

Text Handling Skills - Safari
  • Using the Reader button in Safari allows you to strip away the distractions from a piece of text
  • You can right click/secondary click on any piece of text within an Apple product to access some special services: Dictionary, Speech to Text. 
  • Other options can be customised and added added through the menu bar - Safari -> Services then Services Preferences. Nice services to add might be Add to iTunes as a Spoken Track

Text Handling Skills - Preview

From within most applications including Safari, Pages and MS Word you can "print" these as in PDF format. Choose the Print Menu and choose to Open PDF in Preview.

Once you have opened the document in Preview you have a rich array of functions under the Annotation button. This allows you to highlight pieces of text, add your own ideas, and comments. You can also turn on the Services within Preview to highlight and send snippets of text to Sticky Notes. These annotation functions should be easier to use in the Lion Update.

Presentation Skills - using Keynote
Presenting information back to the class or teacher is one of the hardest aspects of being an ESOL student, and the final Interactive Presentation assessment can be very daunting. Using Keynote and the recording functions is a nice way scaffold students towards the final assessment. The essential point of using Keynote rather than iMovie is how the students are being assessed. If the focus is on the oral presentation skills and ability of communicate a message, then Keynote is ideal. If you want to assess the product and a polished movie then you would need to use a more advanced tool.
  1. The basic task is to make a Keynote presentation
  2. Student develop slides with a mixture of media to support the speaking part of the presentation. 
  3. They can use words and animations to develop the presentation.
  4. Finally they can use the Play menu and Record Slideshow tool to record audio over the presentation. Whilst the audio is recording the student can step through the slide and exit once they have completed this.  
  5. Students can use the inspector button to remove the audio, to adjust the volume or to add a soundtrack.

An Academic Screen Saver

We came across this great idea at a recent workshop conducted by Kathleen Ferenz, from Apple. Some of the best ideas are in hindsight the most obvious and this is a good example.

Within Systems Preferences on the MacBooks students can create Screen Savers from any collection of images. Usually these are photographs, but what if these were images from a particular class or lists of a visual vocabulary list? I quickly made a Geography screen saver by doing the following.
  1. From within either Keynote or PowerPoint, I can save the presentation as a collection of pictures, using either the export or save functions. This creates a folder of images, one for each slide. This folder can be saved in your pictures folder.
  2. Then I went into Systems Preferences and clicked in the + button at the bottom to add a folder of pictures. Here I navigated the folder I had created in Step 1.
  3. Then you can change the settings on how the pictures are arranged.
  4. Done :)

  1. Classes could make the slides in Keynote and share collectively through a Picasa Gallery, or sharing functions in iPhoto.
  2. Students could easily create different folders of screen saver images for classes, 
  3. Teachers could use this as a starter when students are entering your room up on your projector.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Working towards a Digital Classroom

This workshop covers a variety of tools that teachers at UWCSEA have available to use in the classroom. Some of the tools are based on the internet and others are part of the software available on the student and staff laptops.

We can classify digital tools according to which aspect of learning they best support. These main groupings of tools are...
  • Research and Information Fluency
  • Collaboration and Communication
  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving and Decision Making
  • Creativity and Innovation

These ideas are part of the NETS (National Education Technology Standards) framework which provides articulation of how we could use technology in the classroom from grades K-12. The other two aspects of the NETS framework are Digital Citizenship and Technology Operations and concepts.

Below is an evolving list of what we could use at UWCSEA Dover:


A classroom blog can be an important part of your classroom practise and can be used in lots of different ways. Generally a blog is good if your are showing unique pieces of information over a period of time. The material can be sorted using tags, which highlight the key ideas in each post.

Blogs can be a weekly class summary completed by students, an immersion language site, a record of what is happening in class to communicate with parents, or a way to differentiate and extend more able students. Individual student reflective blogs will eventually be on a similar, but different school based system called Mahara.

Basic instructions:
  1. Visit the website
  2. Sign in with your Google Apps username and password eg.
  3. Create your profile, which describes who you are, perhaps Mr Smith.
  4. Then click to create a blog
  5. Choose the name of your blog and you can choose the specific URL address.
  6. Then choose the theme. This can be changed later
  7. Once this is complete you can write your first post. Think about adding pictures, videos.
  8. Then go click on the B icon at top and back to settings, permissions to invite people to your website. 
  9. When viewing your website you can type view after the URL at see a very nice interface of your posts. eg

This is a simple chatroom website, which allows you to create a private room for your students to discuss a topic or issue. You create a conversation in and then share this link with students. When a student navigates to the link, they will have to enter a name to participate. There is also some simple language translation aspects of this site, which students might like to experiment with.

Try this link to see an example of how it works.


Click here to download the program to your laptops. You can also give students this link if you would like to use this in class. This is a relatively new piece of software.

This application allows you to take screen shots and then annotate, add text and export the image or very quickly to your desktop. It would be really good in Science, Humanities, Geography where students could find a picture or diagram from the internet then add some ideas and export the finished image back to their notes or desktop.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Using Google Docs for Collaboration

In this workshop we are going to be looking at the functions of Google Docs for use in the classroom. We will look mainly at the Documents functionality and less at Presentations and Spreadsheets, but the same general rules apply to each application.

This workshop is highly differentiated and you are encouraged to work at a level you feel comfortable with but to also discover something new. Hopefully you come away with some new ideas, but hopefully this reinforces what you already do.